* This is the continuation of my creative journey. You can read Part 1 here   

Planting multiple creative seeds 

Early uniform when I started my 10 year journey at my school (left), some photo ID over the years (right)

I am a second generation Canadian. This means that, just like many other families with immigrant parents, education was a core value in our household. I witnessed my parents sacrifice a lot to put my siblings and I through private school. Their plan was for us to get a "proper" education and land a "good" career so that we could surpass them in life. Unsurprisingly, this created an additional amount of pressure and expectations on our shoulders. And as the first-born (aka the example) I felt the heavy weight of that pressure throughout my schooling. That was on top of the pressure from the permeating toxic mantra many people of colour carry with them of having to "work twice as much to get half of what others get" as part of the rules of the game of our lives.

While I had the privilege of attending a stable, small private school from age 7 to 17, art was not the main focus of my education; science was. Science was considered to be the key to a successful future. Therefore, my approved answer to the infamous What-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up question was that I was going to become an architect. It was the best way I could combine some of my interests with my parents expectations. Thankfully I managed to keep art close by as a supporting character and a personal hobby. I managed to get several opportunities to explore and develop my creativity throughout my schooling, without disturbing the initial plan for my career. These early opportunities allowed me to plant a number of creative seeds that helped me stay in touch with my creative side and blossomed into tangible skills that I still get to use to this day. 


I've always been the type of kid to have a pen and paper on hands with me almost all the time. Give me a pen and paper, and I'll entertain myself for hours. Writing always felt like home to me. I wrote a lot. I remember when I had issues with my parents and felt like I couldn't get my voice heard or my point across, I would write them letters. And when that failed, I would journal about it. 

I started journaling around the age of 12. My dad gave me my first journal. I used it to record events, process my thoughts and emotions at the time. It felt like the ideal place for me to fully express myself, uninterrupted and without outside influences. It was also a great way for me to voice my opinion on various topics or events at the time. I had a lot to say, a lot to process, a lot to understand about life, especially as a teenager.  I think my curiosity fuelled my ability to write relatively well. Well enough to be one of the recipient of a prize along side 2 other classmates for writing contest (picture below). I forget exactly what it was about but it planted a seed of validation in that field. 

My school planners were also filled with lyrics from songs I connected to at the time. This actually helped me learn English a little faster while I was in a French speaking school since most of the songs I liked were in English. Mind you not all of the lyrics were accurate. I also had aspirations to write books on various topics. I even kept a list of ideas for books to write later on. 

Winning of one of the three prizes with my classmates for a writing contest 


Drawing was another important part of my journey. I drew a lot, all the time. It was just something I did naturally. I think the reason why I drew so much as a kid and why it stayed with me is because drawing was a way for me to connect with my environment and the people around me. Drawing people was a way for me to get to know them a little better through my observations and, for the ones who were interested, it was a way for them to get to know me a little as well. I used to be a shy, quiet and mostly introverted child and allowing others to see me draw was often a great way for them to start a conversation in a way that didn't feel awkward or forced. It was my way of connecting. 

Throughout my schooling, I drew my classmates, friends, crushes, teachers, favourite celebrities, random models from magazines, and various characters from comic books. My mom encouraged me to keep all my drawings and I still have many old ones with me (some shown below). I always felt a great sense of accomplishment from completing an increasing number of portraits and seeing my progress over time. I think it was also a way to get to know myself based on what captured my interest. My favourite topic to draw was (and still is) people. 

Examples of drawings I made in high school for fun 


I didn't know it at the time, but I learned some of the fundamental principles of graphic design early on by enrolling in extra curricular activities in photography, general arts and the yearbook committees. Not only did we learn to take pictures, my school also had a dark room where we learned to develop photographs from 35mm films. It was such a great experience. My dad had a camera that I borrowed to take pictures of my classmates in school and during school trips. Joining the yearbook committee not only gave me an opportunity to take a lot of pictures, but I also learned about book layout. At the time, it was more like scrapbooking, but now that I look at it, it really was my introduction to graphic design. 

The audio-visual and yearbook committees


Despite being shy, I loved to perform. I love to dance, sing and play music.  Early on, I took ballet classes and was part of a large school anniversary show (pictured below). My siblings and I would also have our own 'dance club' in the basement and practice choreographies from various music videos we would record on VHS during our time off. And just before graduating high school some friends and I choreographed a couple dances for an end of year show.  

I was also part of the school choir and we did a couple holiday shows. I believe we even sang at a retirement home one year around the holidays. 

There wasn't a lot of music classes but we did learned to play the flute in elementary. I remember teaching myself a song from a cartoon character called Demetan and playing it by ear when I would get to school early. A couple years later, in high school, one of my best friends at the time was a pretty serious piano student at the conservatory. I remember spending some time at her house and learning a couple tunes on her grand piano and then going to practice at home in my little electric piano. I used to spend a lot of time with it creating tunes at home just for fun. 

Performing a ballet show for the school's anniversary 


It's safe to say that during my formative years, I had plenty of opportunities to explore my creative side. And I'm really grateful for that. However, I'm also aware that I was just scratching the surface of what I was capable of doing and wanted to do at the time. That's because I felt that growing up as the eldest of the family meant that there was not a lot of time to have guilt-free fun. I also had responsibilities regarding my education and my role in the family. I took it upon myself to also be responsible for the maintenance of the healthy dynamic of my family. I was well aware that my parents were making a lot of sacrifices to keep us in school and I had to help. There was often something more important to do than to be creative. So "fun" was a break from time to time, but not an end in itself. That mindset affected my ability to dive in deep in any of my creative endeavours. 

This mindset caused me to abandon several creative projects that were becoming "too big" or "too ambitious". It was always easy to start but not always easy to stick through it and get it done. One incident that might have cause this pattern was at time where I had the brilliant idea to create a 3D model of a home. I think it was based on the board game called Clue. I believe this was during a summer break and I used some boxes lying around the house to create the space. I remember spending a good portion of the day on it and being proud of my custom-made checkered floor. However, when my dad came back from work, he got angry and destroyed it in seconds.

I forget the circumstances of this incident, but essentially from what I remember, what I created was seen as a waste of resource and a waist of time. I was crushed and I attached a negative meaning to that event. I remember feeling disappointed that all the effort, care and creativity that I had put in it was gone in a matter of seconds. It was now meaningless. 

Perhaps I associated big ambitious projects as being meaningless and a target for destruction. So my protective response was to create restrictions around ambitious creative projects. I felt I had to self-imposed strict boundaries around my self-expression and creativity if I wanted to be able to keep it. Following this, I never attempted to create anything "too big" and especially nothing 3D until it was required of me in design school many years later. I had subconsciously concluded that my creativity was "too much" for others to handle, a little bit like my drawing skills in pre-school, so I had to restrict it in order to protect it. In a way I feel it slowed down my creative growth and forced me to take a less conventional route in my creative journey. But I still managed to get there. Over the years I've gotten better at expressing "bigger ideas", but it's still something that I have to consciously be intentional about. The silver lining is that along the way, I picked up other unique valuable skills that makes me stand out from other creative as you'll see in the upcoming parts of this series.